How do you get more volunteers? Recruiting and securing them can be a challenge. People are pulled in a number of different directions these days so getting on their “list” for time requires some finesse. Plus, you can’t choose just any old person because volunteers reflect on your chamber.
So how do you find good, reliable chamber volunteers? Where are they hiding? In this article, we’ll give you 13 powerful recruitment tips as well as 16 ways to find and recruit volunteers. Plus…
… a bonus idea from the Lockport Chamber of Commerce. Finally, we’ll touch on what’s necessary to keep volunteers happy by welcoming in the new while continuing to appreciate your stalwarts.
When it comes to volunteers there are two components to recruiting them: finding them and getting them to agree to help. Both are equally important.
First, let’s go over how to recruit them and then we’ll cover a few
How to Recruit Chamber Volunteers
- Ask. Sure, ask in general terms by placing call-outs for volunteers but also ask specific individuals you think would be good in a particular role.
- What’s in it for them. Don’t lead with why you need them. Tell them why it’s advantageous to them. You’re asking for their time. They need a reason to give it to you.
- Have a standing list of what you need
organizedby the time someone has to volunteer. For instance, “If you have one hour per week, we need…” You can also organize (or filter) volunteer needs by whether it’s a one-time need or a standing need.
- Be specific about the time commitment, skills, and background required. You might even want to mention what the position ties into from a professional standpoint as it could help someone boost their portfolio or job skills.
- Tell the story of the greater good. For example, they’re not just sealing envelopes. They’re helping grow
localbusiness through x, y, and z.
- Make signing up easy. If they have to call during a two-hour window or attend hours worth of training, they’re less likely to agree to volunteer.
- Give them something to do. Be organized. There is nothing worse than coming out for volunteer hours only to stand around waiting on something to do. Instead, greet them as they arrive and give them an immediate job. Thank them for their help and be prepared to give them more if they finish early. People want to help. Make sure there’s plenty to do.
- Circle back to your “no’s.” Just because someone said no to you once doesn’t mean that they won’t volunteer in the future. Reach back out to people you’ve approached in the past.
- Use your CMS. If you approach someone about a specific volunteer position and they give you information about what else they’d like to do, what their time looks like, or any other piece of personal information, enter it into your touch log and set a reminder to follow up. For instance, maybe they turned you down to sell tickets but mentioned they’d love to help on a different event in another capacity. Don’t let that opportunity get away.
- Give the role a name. Telling people they’ll be checking people in is not nearly as exciting as becoming an event concierge, for instance.
- Use volunteer testimonials. For your big events, interview people who volunteer and invite them to talk about what they liked in regard to the opportunity.
- Become known for something strange. Some organizations use a differentiator for their volunteers and they become known for that thing such as a special color blazer or hat. The stranger it is, the more people will want to be a part of it.
- Make introductions. Your volunteers are doing you a favor. Try doing one back by introducing them to people they want to meet. If you consistently do this, you’ll gain a reputation for it and people will appreciate you and talk about your efforts.
Now that you know how to recruit, let’s talk about where you can find people.
The Lockport, IL Chamber of Commerce came up with a great idea that works well to attract volunteers.
A Creative Way to Recruit More Chamber Volunteers
Will a non-profit just lend out their volunteers? Probably not. Good volunteers are like good babysitters. Everyone is so happy to have them, they wouldn’t dare tell others about them.
But there is one way to get your local non-profits to happily hand over their volunteer list.
Lisa Kairis from the Lockport Chamber of Commerce said, “Our chamber heads up a couple of parts of our annual festival, which includes a beer garden and live bands. We always need volunteers so we started a ‘volunteers for tips’ program. Three non-profit organizations (online application, first-come first-served) volunteer 20+ hours of time in exchange for 1/4 of the proceeds from the beer garden tip jar all weekend. The other 1/4 helps fund our scholarship program.”
Photo courtesy of Joel Kramer via Flickr.
Give something and get something. The chamber gives tip proceeds to the non-profits and in return gets able volunteers. Not only is this brilliant because it brings them bodies but it brings them volunteers who are happy to be there because they are getting something out of it too. Everybody enjoys the experience.
So what do you do if you need volunteers for something outside of an event? Use the give something to get something idea here too. Non-profits often need things for their auctions and you may have something you could provide them in return for a few volunteer hours. Or offer them a sponsorship opportunity where they can get their name out there and you get some volunteer sweat equity. For instance, you could trade an email blast for them for one of their people giving a few volunteer hours as a receptionist for the chamber.
Ready for more?
16 Places to Find Chamber Volunteers
The following list of ideas can help you find the chamber volunteers you are looking for.
- Add a page about volunteer needs to your chamber website.
- Keep a list of volunteer needs as a column in your newsletter.
- Contact local schools that have volunteer requirements for their students and give them information about your volunteer program.
- Put a volunteer call out on social media. Don’t forget Instagram.
- Sign up with a volunteer placement service. Your city or a non-profit may run one for free. Check out groups like VolunteerMatch, Idealist, and Create the Good.
- Contact the local media and tell them what you’re looking for.
- Contact a local service club and tell them.
- Visit an active retirement home. Sometimes people there are looking for something to do but they might not have the transportation.
- Offer volunteer activities people can do from home.
- Ask current volunteers to bring friends.
- Use your free space. If you have advertising space that wasn’t sold or a weekly column in the newspaper, consider using that space to put out a call for volunteers.
- Contact youth service organizations like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts that might have volunteer requirements.
- Add an “Apply to Volunteer” button to your website.
- Ask your staff for referrals.
- If former staff or interns left on good terms for other opportunities, get in touch with them about your volunteer needs. Maybe they know someone or want to come back and see the group.
- Create a contest for whatever you need. For instance, if you can’t find anyone to volunteer to help you to write content, then host a contest to write it and give the winner something for their efforts. You can also crowdsource the winning entry.
Now that you know how to recruit and where to find recruits, what do you do with them once they show up and how do you keep them?
4 Ways to Show New and Old Chamber Volunteers Appreciation
How do you actively recruit, show appreciation to new volunteers, and make the ones who have been with you feel as special as they did when they were brand new? That’s a lot to put on a volunteer coordinator but it has to be done.
Place Old in Charge of New
Part of showing appreciation for some people is noting their seniority. You can task your tried and true volunteers with showing the new ones the ropes and answering any questions the new group may have. Instead of this being a boss employee situation, encourage your faithful to approach it from a mentor/protege standpoint.
Check In with Your Stalwarts
Before assigning tasks for new volunteers, make sure your loyal ones are doing what they want to be doing. You don’t want to bring in a new group, assign them something to do, and then find out that your stalwarts would’ve loved to have been asked to do that activity.
If any of these newbies are friends with your existing volunteers, schedule them together. It will be more enjoyable and they’re more likely to keep returning.
Old or new, everyone loves to be thanked. While every chamber is thankful for its volunteers, the more specific you can be when bestowing your appreciation on them, the more meaningful it will feel.
Finally, a great way to get everyone together is through food. If you’re able to swing it in your budget, have a welcome/appreciation breakfast or lunch. Food goes a long way to putting smiles on faces and showing chamber volunteers appreciation.
If you need more chamber volunteers, you have to get creative. Following the ideas in this article will help you attain and retain those very valuable people.